American sprinter and reigning men's 100-meter world champion Christian Coleman has been banned from competition for two years after missing a series of doping tests, an international disciplinary panel ruled Tuesday.
The decision means that, barring a successful appeal, the man who was favored to win gold at the Tokyo Olympics next summer will instead be barred from participating. (The Games were postponed to 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.)
Coleman, one of the fastest men in the world, was provisionally suspended in June by the Athletics Integrity Unit, which runs the anti-doping program for track and field's international governing body, World Athletics. The organization upheld that suspension Tuesday, confirming that he had missed three doping tests in a 12-month period in 2019.
The AIU wrote in its decision that "there is no suggestion that the Athlete has ever taken any Prohibited Substance." But it found that Coleman had violated the organization's whereabouts requirements, which stipulate that athletes must provide their whereabouts for one hour each day during which they can be tested.
"Unfortunately, we see this case as involving behaviour by the Athlete as very careless at best and reckless at worst," the AIU wrote in its decision.
Christian Coleman celebrates after winning the 100m in 9.76 as Filippo Tortu watches during the IAAF World Athletics Championships at Khalifa International Stadium. (Photo: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY Sports)
Coleman's agent, Emanuel Hudson, called the decision "unfortunate" and said the 24-year-old sprinter will file an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport. He has 30 days to do so.
"Mr. Coleman has nothing further to say until such time as the matter can be heard in the Court of jurisdiction," Hudson said in a statement provided to USA TODAY Sports.
At the heart of the AIU's ruling, and Coleman's dissent, is a missed test on Dec. 9 — which, as the third such event in 12 months, triggered his punishment.
Coleman told the disciplinary panel that he had been shopping for Christmas presents at a nearby mall during his one-hour testing window that night. He said he returned home briefly, ate Chipotle while watching the beginning of the Monday night football game, and then went back out to complete his shopping. Coleman also blamed drug-test collectors for failing to contact him, writing on Twitter that he believed it "was a purposeful attempt to get me to miss a test."
Collectors, meanwhile, said they were outside Coleman's residence for an hour, including the time in which he said he had returned home, and stated that "at no time was a light turned on at the house."
The AIU also reviewed receipts from Coleman's shopping and ruled it would have been "simply impossible" for him to purchase Chipotle, return home and leave again within his alleged timeframe, given the distances involved.
"It is obvious that in fact the Athlete did not go home until after making his (later) purchase," the disciplinary panel stated.
Barring a successful appeal, Coleman will be eligible to return to competition on May 13, 2022.
An Atlanta native and collegiate national champion at Tennessee, Coleman had been expected to contend for multiple gold medals at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. He won the 100-meter dash at the 2019 world championships with a time of 9.76 seconds, the sixth-fastest time ever, and is also the reigning world record-holder in the 60-meter dash.
Coleman previously faced a separate ban for whereabouts violations in 2019 but successfully appealed the case on a technicality.